How to Get Into a Sexual Headspace When You’re Stressed

It’s been a stressful summer for me, and I suspect I’m not alone. If you’re of the “woo” mindset, you know that we just left Mercury Retrograde (along with four other planets in retrograde) and multiple eclipses. For those attuned to the energetic shifts of the universe, it’s been an intense time. (I have been bingeing on Chani Nicholas’ astrology work — her horoscopes are eerily accurate!)

Even if you’re not into the more metaphysical explanations of personal and professional tension, I think we can all agree that a lot of folks are feeling overwhelmed and under-resourced at present. We know that stress is one of the biggest desire detractors (unless you’re one of those rare folks who finds stress to be a turn on), so how do we prioritize pleasure during these trying times?

Step one is actually practicing prioritizing pleasure. Put it on your calendar. I know we all have busy schedules — schedule that shit! Put time on your calendar, even just 10 or 15 minutes, but ideally more like an hour, at least once a week, to do something that feels really good. Something for you. What I’m about to describe is a little easier if you have a sexual partner with whom you share an emotional bond. If you happen to be unpartnered, I’ll have a suggestion for you at the end.

How to Get Into a Sexual Headspace When You Have Stress

For those of us who have a sweetie — or multiple — make sure that you have at least an hour set aside for this activity, and start by obtaining your partner’s consent to hold space for you while you process whatever is most stressing you out. What I mean by holding space is listening, empathizing and allowing you to feel all of your feelings without trying to “fix” you. Make sure that they’re not going to be thrown off or activated by your big feelings, whether you’re sad, angry, anxious or all of the above. Make sure that they are someone who can and will honor your vulnerability and remind you that you’re not alone. Remind you that they’ve got your back.

(Side note: if your romantic/sexual partner is the direct cause of your stress, this may not work as well, although it could be excellent. It just requires a lot more patience and compassion on the part of the listening partner.)

Once they’ve consented — let it out. Sometimes it’s hard to immediately access my emotions because they are so stuck behind all the walls I put up so that I can move through the world on any given day. If that’s the case, try this thing my boyfriend taught me. Lying face-down on a flat surface (bed, floor, couch, etc.), close your eyes. Begin breathing deeply. Starting with your head, clench everything — your jaw, shoulders, chest, stomach, hips, legs, all the way down to your toes. Think about the thing that is stressing you. Let that stress wash over you. Then, when you’re ready, release everything. Make noise! I like to make an “UGHHHHHHH” sound. Shake your hands, arms, legs and head. Pound your hands and legs like you’re a two-year-old throwing a tantrum.

While you’re doing this, make sure your partner is encouraging you to let it out. My boyfriend likes to say, “Yes, just like that. Let it out. This doesn’t scare me. What else ya got?” Let the tears come. Let the rage come. A caveat: do not harm yourself, your partner, or any property! Once the tears start flowing, or the anger washes over you, feel it. Really let yourself feel it. If you have words, share them. If you’re feeling ashamed or embarrassed, share that.

How to Get Into a Sexual Headspace When You Have Stress

When the words come, and the usually do after an intense emotional release, share your stressors with your partner. Let them validate that what you’re going through is hard, but that they’re behind you. You’re on the same team. They have your back. Let them hold you and kiss you and tell you that you are capable and you’ve got this. Make an agreement with your partner in advance that once you start to come to the other side of the feelings (because feelings are a tunnel), they’ll offer you water and at least one grounding technique, whether they wrap you in blankets like a sushi roll, or put some weight on your feet or hips, or just encouraging you to take a few more deep belly breaths.

And here’s where the magic happens. After I feel that blessed relief from all of the emotional pressure I’ve been carrying, I noticed I feel so much lighter, super connected with my partner, and massively turned on! Maybe you need a joint or a shower first — or both — and that’s totally cool. Maybe you just need to dry your eyes and wipe the snot off your face. My boyfriend once joked that he was going to use my snot as lube. I vetoed that suggestion, but thanked him for his commitment to maximizing fluid utility. He said he just wanted to remind me that I’m still hot even after sobbing. I love him for that, and so many other reasons. Emotional intimacy can be both sexy and gross.

If you’re unpartnered, I’d still suggest scheduling time for pleasure. For you, though, build in a call with someone you trust immediately prior. Make a phone date with your best friend and make sure they know that you’re going to emotionally unload on them during the call and that they have the emotional bandwidth to hold space for you. Then, repeat everything above, minus the sexual parts. For the yelling and pounding part, put your phone on speaker and put it nearby, or prop it up if you’re on video chat.

How to Get Into a Sexual Headspace When You Have Stress

Be sure to thank your listener afterward. This thing that you’re requesting of them is not easy, but it’s quite powerful. I seriously have had some of the best sex of my life after pouring my heart out to my partner and feeling all of my feelings.

Have you ever had spectacular sex after a big emotional release? Give it a chance — emotional intimacy may be some of the best foreplay I’ve ever experienced.